An estimated one billion people live without access to clean drinking water in the world. At its most fundamental level, this is a problem of humanity and it is the responsibility of our schools to cultivate the future scientists and historians, engineers and policy makers, anthropologists and computer scientists, artists and mathematicians who will solve this and other vital issues.
Such an endeavor involves a deliberate shift from the traditional archetype of schooling whereby subjects are taught in isolation, students are tracked into high and low, learning is confined to textbook content and collaboration is only a luxury if time permits. Indeed, the duty of educators to illuminate a better, more significant path for learning has never been more pronounced as it is today.
Drawing on Pinewood’s work in this area, the practice of interdisciplinary collaboration and thoughtful support for a growth mindset have proven effective in orienting students away from traditional learning and towards a new path; specifically, the attainment of global competencies. OECD’s Education Director explains the shift towards attaining global competencies in education as follows: In the past, education was about teaching people something. Now, it is about ensuring that children develop a reliable compass, obtain navigation skills and resilient character qualities, collaborate and trust across differences, and appreciate varying ideas, perspectives and values in order to confidently face an ambiguous world.
Interdisciplinary collaboration, or teaching as a confluence of STEM and the Humanities, is an indispensable approach for today’s learners. Students must understand that there are connections between the natural sciences, social sciences and the arts. As an example, Pinewood’s Physics teacher and Dance teacher have designed a joint project whereby the principles of mechanics are further understood through originally-created choreographies based on the theory of rotational motion and relative to the core elements of dance. This not only allows students to understand mechanics more easily, it also requires that they approach physics from a new perspective, just as scientists do in the real world when trying to solve issues of humanity. Through this approach, students learn the content while also becoming critical and creative problem solvers and more articulate communicators.
In order for all students to be interested and engaged in interdisciplinary learning, they must perceive their abilities as adjustable, not fixed. Thus, the teachers’ role has expanded to that of ‘coach’ in order to support students in developing what Stanford’s Carol Dweck calls a growth mindset. More precisely, students who understand that intelligence can be developed through hard work, effort and trying new strategies – a growth mindset – will approach learning with motivation and achieve in more diverse areas of the curriculum. This is in comparison to those who believe that intelligence is fixed – a fixed mindset – and that there are simply kids who are good or bad at specific subjects and that’s just the way it is. Cultivating a growth mindset in schools establishes a powerful shift in students’ abilities to successfully collaborate in all subject areas and is the best way to prepare them for their future.
If schools practice the shift towards teaching global competencies in the manner described herein, it will yield students who will one day live in a world where the problems of humanity are diminished. And, as more schools climb onboard, we can imagine great potential for the future of education and schooling.